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The Lesson of the Bearded Antiquarian
When “The Anarchist's Design Book” was released in 2016, I knew there would be hate mail. I get a pile of it whenever I write a book, pen a magazine article or film a video. I accept this; it comes with the territory. And after 33 years of writing, the barbs are mostly ticks off a possum’s back.
But then there was the Bearded Antiquarian.
Soon after the “Design Book” came out, he sent a letter notifying us that he was encouraging Adobe's legal department to come after me. Why? Because the marriage mark on the cover of the book looked like the icon for Adobe Acrobat.
The historical marriage mark, shown in A.J. Roubo's 1777 “l'Art du menuisier” (pictured above) looks like a triangle with two swoops. The swoops are a functional part of the mark and allow you to make it with one pencil stroke.
Adobe Acrobat’s icon is a triangle with three swoops and is supposed to look like an “A” with three swoops.
I asked the Bearded Antiquarian, who said his name was Joesph Mama (aka Yo Mama, get it?), why he would do something like this. His response was chilling.
The heart of the issue is that I don’t like you. I think that you are a vulgar, crass, unkempt, childish and arrogant little boy and it would bring me great pleasure to see your company financially burdened by a lawsuit. You insult the wealthy and elite for the crime of being wealthy and elite and life [sic] up the “little guy” just for the sake of childishly thumbing your teeth at “the man.”
Whether you like it or not, you are a significant public face for traditional woodworking and you are representing the craft as an admitted drunkard who, in every public or video appearance which I have seen, dresses as if you just awoke from an all night high school beer bash. You are helping to create and/or perpetuate an obscene, profane, slovenly public image of hand craft and it you should be ashamed.
Will Adobe sue you? I don’t know, but I hope they do. I hope you lose everything so that your wife and daughter see what the fruits of obtuse narcissism reap. I hope you will have the experience of knowing that you have created extreme hardship for your family and that they resent you for the rest of their lives. It probably won’t happen that way, but a man can dream can’t he?
Here’s the thing, Mr. Mama, you don’t know the half of it.
In addition to all the flaws you listed, I also lack confidence in my abilities as a writer, woodworker, husband and father. I regularly feel like a failure on all these fronts (and several others) because I am unable to live up my promises.
I’m an awkward social presence. I’m told I’m somewhere on the autism spectrum, and I have difficulty making eye contact with strangers unless I force myself too. I was such an odd little boy my parents sent me to a special school for children with developmental disabilities. And no, I didn’t graduate or improve.
Business-wise, it wouldn’t take much to kneecap me. My wife and I have always been writers, and we probably couldn’t afford a lawyer to defend us in a lawsuit from Adobe. So, your move was both canny and cunning.
Am I an alcoholic? No, as I mentioned above, I’m a writer. (A lot of people get those two professions confused, so your mistake is understandable and forgiven.)
Speaking of my writing career, failure is close by. I’m already seen as a laughingstock by my peers from college. Most of them went on to become A-list journalists at national publications, large television networks and prestigious publishing houses (or they went to law school and became rich lawyers). I am a C-list woodworking celebrity who lives in Kentucky and runs a vanity press.
So yeah, Mr. Mama, you’re barking up the right tree.
But there is one thing – and it’s small – that I have achieved that you have not. And you probably never will.
I have avoided the bitterness of middle age.
If you’re interested, here’s how it works. Anytime I have a bad thought about someone. For example, “Man, that Garrett Hack sure is an asshole1,” my mind immediately counters with, “And you know what, so are you.” When I see someone’s work that I think is ugly, my head immediately counters with: “A lot of people think your chairs are awkward – and one step away from Tinkertoys.”
This constant mental exchange prevents grudges or ill-will from taking root. Because no matter how bad I think you are, I know I’m just as bad. Maybe even worse.
So drop me a line some time, Mr. Mama. In fact, come around for a beer, and we can figure out why we’re so damn different.
Sorry I’m so tardy in responding. It’s one of my other flaws you didn’t mention. Been busy.
Garrett Hack is not an asshole. He’s a nice, laid-back guy.